Reviews: WASO's 'Tristan und Isolde', August 2018


Tristan und Isolde, Perth

By various members:

Thursday, August 16, 2018:

Pattie Benjamin (who lived in Perth before moving to Sydney):

Much has been said and the critics have very properly raved about this superb concert production. I’d like to add that Perth managed this, despite being small and the most distant capital city in the world, which I think needs acknowledging. It was an amazing accomplishment.

Bruce King:

Others have posted about the magnificent Tristan und Isolde in Perth on Thursday night. We had heard Skelton sing Tristan wonderfully but in a diabolically perverse production at the English National Opera in 2016 (I think) and he was as good again in this concert version. The great pleasure of the night was the stand-in soprano Gun-Brit Barkman who completely won the audience to her performance. It was a stunning night.

Marie Leach:

The WASO performance of Tristan und Isolde was a wonderful experience. How privileged were we to be there, to have the depth, passion, despair and tragedy of this wonderful opera conveyed to us so vividly and perfectly by the rich, Wagnerian sound of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Asher Fisch; and by such glorious singers as Gun-Brit Barkmin, a truly fiery Irish princess, Stuart Skelton, our own wonderful heldentenor, Ekaterina Gubanova (who I had seen some weeks before as Fricka in the Munich Ring) as a loyal Brangane and Ain Anger (Fafner and Hunding in the Munich Ring) as a wounded, dignified King Marke. The performance was ‘book- ended’ by two other very special occasions: a reception in Perth by the WA Wagner Society on the night after the opera at which we had the opportunity to hear a very interesting talk from Asher Fisch and to meet with him and Stuart Skelton; and the truly excellent seminar delivered by Anthony Ernst the week before in Sydney, with his focus on conceiving the opera as Isolde (Act I), ‘und’ (Act II) and Tristan (Act III); this profound insight and more brought for me a new and enriched way into this complex opera.

From two Melbourne members:

Liz Dax

Travelling across the Country to attend this outstanding musical experience was well worth the effort. How unusual in Australia to reach the end of any musical tour-de-force and for the entire audience to rise to its feet in applause. Furthermore, as is so unusual these days, everyone waited until the last of the magical sound dissipated before offering their appreciation. Yes, we could sing the praises of the accomplished artists individually, all fully steeped in their craft, the splendid orchestral rendition of the epic Wagner work, Asher Fisch’s command of the music and his musicality but the magicianship of bringing it all together was extraordinary and laudable. Congratulations to the mindful audience as well! We would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Hugh Taylor

I was really impressed especially as it was a concert performance and I was anticipating missing the sets, acting and costumes. In fact it was the best Tristan I have seen. The conductor, orchestra and singers were all terrific as others have very justifiably said. But we had wonderful seats, thank you Wagner Society, and one could see and follow the interaction of Asher Fisch and the WASO and also with singers who were magnificent and were not distracted by acting or moving upstage or lying down and dying. It was riveting. We could see and hear every nuance in the wonderful production of this great piece. It was a real treat.

Minnie Biggs attended both performances:

The Tristan matinee, number 2 performance, was superb. Isolde was more confident, expressive in face and body, engaging, smiling and really connecting physically with Tristan. A joy to behold, and to hear, as before.

Stuart came on for the 3rd act with just his tie off, collar unbuttoned. Suit as usual. I thought him marginally better, if possible, in the first performance in his rolled-up shirtsleeves, shirt-tails hanging out. More emotionally wrought (though it may have been my seat position, or the deshabille outfit!)

In performance 2, Asher threw his baton overboard and continued conducting Act 2 with a ballpoint! An audience member handed it back up at the end. Not a pause for breath, or a note!

There was not such a delicious long pause, silence, at the end of acts 2 and 3, before clapping. One of the most beautiful moments in opera is that suspended silence. Then thunderous applause.

Sunday, August 19, 2018:

Claire Brauer:

What a wonderful weekend! I’d appreciate it if you could offer my thanks to the WA Wagner Society for their kind hospitality on Friday night. What a pleasure to listen to Asher speak. I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s performance - WASO has much of which to be proud and I’m sure there will be more special events in the future. I was very glad to be a part of it all.

Frances Butcher:

This performance of Tristan und Isolde was a great success, bringing together a majestic performance of the WASO under the baton of Fisch and the opera with Australian superstar heldentenor, Stuart Skelton, as Tristan and renowned soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin as Isolde. The event showcased in equal measure Richard Wagner’s immortal opus and the enduring talent of the WASO, being a concert in oratorio format with the cast standing facing the audience and singing without the staged animation of opera. This afforded the audience the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful music created by the WASO and see it in action. It did not diminish the power and pathos of the opera. If anything the music enhanced the romance and tragedy of the story: a gloriously powerful sound from the podium which
is hard to achieve in a smaller orchestra pit. We and, assuredly, the rest of the audience were thrilled that the event was such a success for the WASO in its 90th year. The atmosphere within and outside the concert hall was festive and inclusive and a great advertisement for this magnificent orchestra. Asher Fisch has joined the stratosphere of famous international conductors.

Wagner fans love Stuart Skelton and his imposing muscular presence. He triumphed again as Tristan. Were they his tears at the standing ovation at the end? Gun-Brit Barkmin was enchanting as Isolde, her Teutonic heritage, range and diction making her perfect for the part. The other roles pleased, especially Ain Anger as an understated, impressive King Marke,. We had the fun of meeting Brent Grapes, Principal Trumpet WASO, whom we had noticed leaving the stage with the brand-new rare wood “Tristan Trumpet” from Germany. He played it off stage and then returned. He was one of the stars of the moment receiving publicity because he got to play the new trumpet. Check him out: Musos of WASO: Brent Grapes. In sum, this was a glittering occasion inspiring love of the opera and the orchestra and imbibing one with a sense of pride, delight and well-being at taking part of the celebrations

Lourdes St George:

It was a full throttle musical performance! Amazing - worth traveling 4000km to hear.

Asher Fisch has been able to mould the WASO Orchestra into a true great European sound.